What you need to know about Lincoln Chafee

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Chafee speaks at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Lincoln Chafee threw his hat into the presidential race on Wednesday, announcing his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

“I like challenges,” Chafee said during a speech to a law class at George Mason University. “Today I am formally entering the Democratic race for president.”

Wait, who?

The 62-year-old former Rhode Island governor, who formed an exploratory committee in April, enters the race as a longshot who like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley faces an uphill battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

But unlike Sanders, who so far has resisted opportunities to criticize the former secretary of state, Chaffee has already shown a willingness to attack Clinton, joining the chorus of critics on the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of foreign donations and questioning her support for the war in Iraq.

“There were 23 senators who voted against the Iraq war; 18 of us are still alive,” Chafee said. “It’s heartbreaking more of my colleagues failed to do their homework.”

He added: "We must deliberately and carefully extricate ourselves from expensive war."

So Chafee’s anti-war, we know that. Here are five other things you should know about the latest candidate to join the race for the White House.

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Chafee speaks in Providence, R.I., in 2014. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)

• He’s a Republican turned independent turned Democrat and a close friend of President Obama.

Chafee, a former Rhode Island mayor and U.S. senator who began his political career as a member of the GOP, was a Republican until 2007. After losing his 2006 reelection bid, he became an independent, winning the 2010 race for governor in the Ocean State. In 2013, Chafee, who supported both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, switched again, becoming a Democratic.

“I enjoyed working with Linc when he was a Republican in the United States Senate, and I look forward to continuing that collaboration on the issues that matter not just to the Democratic Party, but to every American,” President Obama said in a statement welcoming him to the Democratic Party. “I’m thrilled to welcome Linc to the party of Jefferson and Jackson, Roosevelt and Kennedy — and I look forward to working with him in the years ahead.”

• He was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the war in Iraq.

In 2002, Chafee chafed his Capitol Hill colleagues by voting against the authorization for military force in Iraq. He was so critical of the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion, in fact, he says he wrote “George H. W. Bush” on his ballot in the 2004 presidential election as a “symbolic protest.”

Chafee wears his opposition to the war as a point of pride and a place to differentiate himself from Clinton and the rest of the 2016 pack.

“It’s still relevant,” Chafee told the New York Times. “I would argue that the next president of the United States should not have voted for that war.”

• He attended “horse-farrier school.”

Via NPR:

After attending exclusive prep schools, including Phillips Academy (known as Andover) — where he was a schoolmate of Jeb Bush — and majoring in classics at Brown University, Chafee went to Montana State University in Bozeman. There he learned the art and craft of a farrier — a master of horse shoeing. He then spent seven years working at harness racetracks around North America. His time as a farrier earned him a mention in Hoofcare & Lameness: The Journal of Equine Foot Science.

• He’s not exactly loved in his home state.

As governor, MSNBC notes, “Chafee struggled to enact his economic agenda … and got bogged down in a two-year controversy over his refusal to call a tree in the Statehouse a ‘Christmas tree.’” Chafee called it a “holiday tree” instead.

In 2013, Chafee’s approval rating in Rhode Island dipped to just 26 percent. He decided not to seek reelection in 2014.

“Chafee is unpopular in Rhode Island,” the Washington Post said that year. “Plain and simple.”

• Even some of his former aides and donors are surprised he’s running.

“He has not done anything other than posture on some issues,” Mike Trainor, a former Chafee aide, told the Associated Press. “The question he’s going to have to answer is what credible indications can he give that he is at all ready to run a national campaign.”

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